Jerry Yuke was a fresh-faced 20-year-old in 1963 when he made an unlikely run as the local hope to the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links at Haggin Oaks.
The Publinx, as it was called, was a championship for golfers who played on public courses. As one of 10 United States Golf Association individual championships, it carried great national prestige. That local legend Verne Callison won in 1960 heightened interest in the event when it came to Sacramento.
There is a themed tabletop at Haggin Oaks dedicated to the 1963 Publinx with stories from The Sacramento Bee and Sacramento Union that include photos showing spectators several rows deep lining greens. Yuke, who lost to eventual winner and multiple PGA Tour winner Bob Lunn 3 and 1 in a 36-hole semifinal match, is prominently featured.
Yuke was a 5-foot-6, 160-pound sophomore on the golf team at what was then called Sacramento State College with a Sacramento City Junior title to his credit when he took the local golf scene by storm.
Today, his home features a fishing boat in the driveway, a garage filled with fishing gear and not one golf club in sight.
I haven’t played in about 15 years. I couldn’t see hitting two great shots like on a par 4 and then going up and three-putting. That made me so mad. But fishing, I can miss a fish and it’s not so bad because I know there are plenty more.
Q: What’s the one thing that sticks out about the 1963 U.S. Amateur Public Links?
A: The 35th hole, where I was 2 down with two holes left in my match against Bob Lunn and I got up on the tee and just yanked one to the left. Duck-hooked it in the trees. Bob ended up winning that hole and the match.
Q: What’s it like to still be featured on a tabletop at Haggin Oaks all these years later?
A: It’s fun. All my friends and neighbors who play the game of golf, I tell them I have a table over there. They say, ‘You do?’ They go and see it and they’re pretty amazed.
Q: What happened after that Public Links?
A: I got married, and then there goes golf. I’m working 40 hours a week, and then the kids came, two boys. Then, I got into what I was in love with – fishing. I love black bass fishing. It’s just relaxing. It was always my first love. My first picture in The Sacramento Bee when I was just a kid, I was holding a five-pound carp I caught at the William Land duck pond.
Q: Was the Public Links the pinnacle of your golf career?
A: Exactly. However, right after that – that was in July – the first of September is the California State Fair tournament. That year, since I made a name for myself in the Publinx, they put me in a foursome with Johnny Miller and Ron Cerrudo. That first day, and I’ll never forget and I always tell people, Johnny Miller shot a 73 and I shot a 72. I beat Johnny Miller. Not many guys like me can say that.
Q: The old stories suggest you always played with a smile on your face?
A: I did. I’m sure I got that from my mother (Gertrude) and my father (Dan). Especially my mother, who really loved the game of golf. She had the greatest personality and was always smiling. She had a great swing. When we were juniors and playing in tournaments, she would always be hiding behind the trees watching us play. I think her lowest handicap was an 8.
Q: I heard you had some sort of falling out at Sacramento State?
I got married, and then there goes golf. I’m working 40 hours a week, and then the kids came, two boys. Then, I got into what I was in love with – fishing.
A: My freshman year, I was first man. When it came to the Most Valuable Player award, they said they didn’t give it to freshmen. Fine, that’s all right with me. Then came (future PGA Tour player) Bob Smith. He went to Sac State also. Played on the golf team. He was the first man, and I was second. However, that coach rewarded him Most Valuable Player and he was a freshman. That was it. That made me mad, and I ended up discontinuing playing golf for Sac State.
Q: How’s your golf game these days?
A: I haven’t played in about 15 years. I couldn’t see hitting two great shots like on a par 4 and then going up and three-putting. That made me so mad. But fishing, I can miss a fish and it’s not so bad because I know there are plenty more. I do enjoy watching golf, especially the big tournaments.
Whatever happened to ... Jerry Yuke?
- Age: 73
- Lives: Sacramento
- Family: Wife, Sharon; sons Derek and Tony
- High school: 1961 graduate of Bishop Armstrong (later renamed Christian Brothers)
- Occupation: Retired from the grocery business